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Whole Foods opened a store in the office and retail building, Manhatten’s Time Warner Center. It has meals-to-go and a cafe. That way the grocer got closer to their upscale clients, situated where they spent much of their time. Soon other grocers moved into residential and office buildings – especially in densely populated parts of cities.

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Nearby companies partnered with Whole Foods by buying, in bulk, gift meal coupons to award their employees. Employees enjoy free lunches just steps away, using a gift coupon with a higher face value than their employer paid.

Why not learn from the big guys? How could you become more convenient for your customers by co-locating with other businesses?

Co-locate to Become Bigger Traffic Builders Together

What other businesses serve your kind of customer? In a time-starved, economically uncertain culture, the convenience to customers of co-locating complementary businesses also benefits business owners. Businesses get introduced to each other’s customers – and generate more traffic to their collective location.

Consider these variations of getting closer: side-by-side locations, one outlet within another – or even one with a very small space such as a wall display of products within a partnering outlet. Each option gives people another reason to visit, stay longer, spend more, come back more often and tell others.

Adapt One of These Real Life Success Stories to Your Kind of Business

o Furniture store A&G Merch hosts a store-within-a-store featuring local artists. “It’s a way of getting a quick start – a ready-made audience,” said Robert Hohman of Complete Battery Source which has piloted a store within Auto One. Nintendo put a store within Toys’R’Us.

o Online only retailer Branch Home set up a temporary store-within-a-store at Eco Citizen on Russian Hill in San Francisco.

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o Calvin Klein cosmetics can be found in some music stores. Inevitably, another fragrance/fashion company will recruit another music or other entertainment-related store partner sometime soon. Think upscale Chanel perfume displayed above the opera and classic music CDs at Borders Books & Music. Or even a Brad Pitt-backed scent that’s produced in a co-branded label with Kenneth Cole and sold at the Top Hits section of Borders Books and Music and through NetFlix?

o Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group has an interior door, for example, between its hotel and restaurant at many locations, including The Muse in New York. Consider creating an internal door or open arch between adjacent outlets so customers can wander between locations without going outside.

o An accessories store leases space within or next to a clothing store and is joined by internal doors. London is supporting retail start-ups by allowing them to set up temporary kiosks outside city hall. Oakland Mall also allows such kiosks.

o Restaurants, gift shops – even hotels are co-locating within medical complexes.

o Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits are located in several Kroger supermarkets, increasing traffic for both guest and host companies.

o The U.S. Post Office locates substations in supermarkets and airports.

o A restaurant often leases space within a hospital such as at Johns Hopkins – or in a motel. Pizza Hut has operations in the Days Inn chain.

o Kinko’s leases space within hotels, college campuses and conferences centers.

o Pharmacies have long operated within hospitals.

o A restaurant or fast-food operation often lease space within a hospital or motel. See Pizza Hut within Days Inn.

o A stadium leases space to a concession operator, then a theme restaurant operator.

o A college leases space to a travel agency.

o Franchises are co-branding with complementary services such as Copy, Pack & Ship.

As an independent business what other owners serve your kind of customer?

What customer situation could you serve better together by co-locating with partners in some fashion?

Kare Anderson is a speaker and coach on profitable collaboration, Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal reporter, author of Resolving Conflict Sooner, Moving From Me to We blogger and co-founder, with Guy Harris, of the group blog Ugluu; What Makes Us Stick Together.

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